Tarun Tejpal, the editor of India’s renowned weekly news magazine Tehelka, was accused by a female journalist in his magazine of "grave sexual misconduct" and his response was to step down from his post for six months.
He calls it his ‘penance.’
In an e-mail sent to the magazine's Managing Editor, Mr Tejpal wrote: “I have already unconditionally apologised for my misconduct to the concerned journalist, but I feel impelled to atone further."
"I feel atonement cannot be just words. I must do the penance that lacerates me. I am therefore offering to recues myself from the editorship of Tehelka, and from the Tehelka office, for the next six months."
Here is the reply to the mail from Shoma Chaudhry, the Managing editor of Tehelka:
You may also find this interesting: Hello India, Good Day Pakistan: What Challenges Do Women Face In Your Country? (Video)
Not everyone agrees to his definition of ‘penance’ however, and he is getting a lot of flak in response to his apology.
Appalled at the grandiloquence masquerading as "atonement" #tehelka— Genderlog (@genderlogindia) November 20, 2013
6 months sabbatical. That is it? what do you call a man who forces his unwanted 'attention' on a woman.? #taruntejpal— Harini Calamur (@calamur) November 20, 2013
Waiting for Tarun Tejpal to say "I'm also quitting non veg, alcohol and YouTube during this period as penance..."— Tanmay Bhat (@thetanmay) November 20, 2013
For all you know, this might have been going on for a long time. Finally someone had the guts to report. #Tehelka— Arushi Nayar (@WaterBaker) November 20, 2013
Dear #Tehelka Sisters, Please take care.. PS: Personally, I wouldn't send my female dog to Tehelka office— fan_of_somya_&_bips (@bhavatarini25) November 20, 2013
Never dip your pen in office ink : golden rule Mr Tejpal didn't follow ! #Tehelka— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) November 20, 2013
Sexual harassment, assault aren't matters for personal "atonement". Tarun Tejpal must be held accountable for his self-confessed actions.— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) November 20, 2013
This tweet probably sums it:
I remember Tarun Tejpal's intro at the first #THiNK, in 2011: "You're in Goa, so eat, drink, make merry & sleep with whomever you want."— Nigel Britto (@NigelBritto) November 20, 2013
Such reports show that India is an unsafe place for women, whether they are assaulted by hoodlums or maligned by the police, politicians and lawyers - who dump the blame on the victims instead of playing a positive role - or allegedly harassed by educated, high ranking people like Tarun Tejpal.
Having said that, there's no way of determining the real facts, which will only be known to a few - the rest is speculation and reaction.
However, there has to be a sterner way to deal with such a situation. The alleged perpetrator may have accepted his actions and stepped down for six months, but we hope there is at least an internal investigation of the matter and some sort of 'penance' accordingly.
What Mr. Tejpal did could just be faltered decision making, a slippery moment or sheer bad luck, but in any case, it was wrong and should be dealt with as such.
You may like to read: Responding To Rape: Women In India Turn To Self Defense
It is indeed sad that in a land that that reveres and prays to goddesses like Durga, Kali and Lakshmi, women and their honor are not safe. Sadder still is that the culprit in this case is not your average street thug, but someone as respected as Tejpal, who has almost three decades of journalism under his belt.